Ring Weekend survives inquiry in course-record Bernard Baruch

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September 5th, 2016

St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Ring Weekend found the third start off his lengthy layoff to be the proverbial charm in Monday’s $250,000 Bernard Baruch (G2). Rallying from just off the quick pace, the 5-2 favorite prevailed in a tussle with unlucky Jay Gatsby and longtime leader Take the Stand in a Mellon course-record 1:38.29. The stewards conducted an inquiry into the stretch run, but allowed the result to stand.

Ring Weekend had been sidelined for more than 14 months after his scintillating victory in the 2015 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. Resurfacing in the May 21 Dixie (G2) on Preakness Day, the Graham Motion trainee endured a wide trip and missed by only a neck to Takeover Targer. Ring Weekend figured to come roaring back in the August 20 Fourstardave (G2) at the Spa, but after being pinched back at the start, he wound up last of six.

On Labor Day, though, Ring Weekend was spoiling for the fight. Well placed by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, the Tapit gelding cruised in fourth as Take the Stand rattled off fractions of :23.26 and :46.59 on the firm course. Ring Weekend moved up a spot at the six-furlong mark in 1:09.90, angled out for the drive, and took aim on Take the Stand.

Jay Gatsby, fifth through the opening six furlongs, was also full of run but stuck on the inside. The Giant’s Causeway half-brother to War Front had an opening between Take the Stand and Ring Weekend, and he bravely seized it to enter the fray. Unfortunately, the pacesetter drifted off a true line under pressure. Jay Gatsby was buffeted in the process, likely costing him whatever win chance he had.

Ring Weekend was also scrimmaging with Jay Gatsby, but not to the same extent. Relentless all the way to the line, he thrust his neck in front to eclipse the 1 1/16-mile course record (1:38.54) set by Ironicus in last year’s Bernard Baruch.

Jay Gatsby still nosed out his nemesis Take the Stand. If he hadn’t, the stewards may well have demoted Take the Stand, but that wasn’t necessary given their two-three finish. After suffering a tough beat on the line in the Lure, and now this, Jay Gatsby is due for a graded win in the near future.

Take the Stand went down narrowly despite the taxing fractions, culminating in a mile split in 1:32.64. Farhaan closed for fourth, and there was a 5 1/4-length gap back to Dubai Sky. Reporting Star, Takeover Target (who may have found this course too quick for his taste), Solemn Tribute, and the eased Natchez rounded out the order of finish. War Dancer was scratched.

Ring Weekend, who scored in the 2014 Saranac (G3) here, also won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Hill Prince (G3) during his sophomore campaign. His resume reads 17-6-4-2, $1,305,410.

Quotes from Saratoga

Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez on Ring Weekend: “He settled a little bit better than last time out here that was the key right there. He broke better, settled better and that was the difference today. And then when I asked him to run, he responded very easily.

“I was pretty certain when the horse [Jay Gatsby] got between us [and Take the Stand], I went to lean a little bit, but I saw the horse on the inside start coming out and I eased out with him at the same time. You can see how far out we came from the rail because the horse on the inside was coming out, so I was not concerned.”

Terry Finley, the managing partner of co-owner West Point Thoroughbreds: “The day after the Fourstardave, Graham said, 'I think we've got a shot to run him back at the end of the meet,' and it kind of took me back a little bit. All week long he's trained great and I had a great feeling. I told everybody I thought he would be very tough today. I had no reservations about bringing him back because Graham's got a really good sense of this horse and he really loves this horse. All those things put together we had a lot of confidence in putting everything together towards this outlook, and we have great partners."

Photo courtesy NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Chelsea Durand